DeQuan Jones dazzled Orlando Magic fans with his YouTube-worthy dunks. He impressed Magic coaches and executives with his versatility, explosiveness, defense, work ethic and attitude. Jones, the undrafted rookie from the University of Miami, was the feel-good story of Magic camp, and like most fairy tales, this one had a happy ending:
The Magic cut two veterans over the weekend to make room for Jones on the 15-man final roster. He said he couldn’t stop smiling when he heard the news. He summed up his feelings in 91 characters on Twitter:
“Underplayed. Suspended. Undrafted. If my story teaches you anything, it’s to never give up.”
Jones led all Orlando players with 28.4 minutes per game in the preseason. He averaged 10.4 points. But it was his defense, his diving for loose balls, his willingness to play anywhere and guard anyone that really put him over the edge.
“From Day One when we spoke to DeQuan at summer league and then at the beginning of training camp, we told him the word is ‘opportunity,’ ” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said on the team website. “There’s an opportunity here for anybody who wants to take advantage of it and he came in and worked really hard. He’s been consistent, he listened and he stayed late and he put himself in a position to take advantage of that opportunity and we’re proud of him.”
Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn added: “It speaks to the challenge that he accepted and he came into the camp and gave it his all. He’s been rewarded for it.”
Jones averaged 5.9 points as a senior at UM, and was forced to sit out 11 games as part of the Nevin Shapiro booster investigation – the school reinstated him after finding no evidence he was involved.
The news of his roster spot came on a particularly special afternoon. Jones’ father, Clady, turned 40 on Saturday and he surprised DeQuan by traveling from Alabama. “I feel like this is a good birthday present for him,” Jones said.